Posted anonymously, this is the second instalment in a series that looks at Borderline Personality Disorder and how one sufferer lives with it at university. Part 1 is here.
I saw a very unsympathetic doctor, I was eager to get help because I wanted to stop self-harming. I went in and told him what had happened and gave him the fax number of the hospital who sent him a report (they’d kept me in overnight and I’d had a mental assessment by 2 nurses the next day). Immediately he started aggressively questioning me “why do you cut yourself, why do you do it, why do you self-harm?” I didn’t know how to respond to this man I’d just met and said “I don’t know” to which he replied “Oh so you’re borderline?” In my head I was thinking “borderline what? What am I on the border of?” Out loud I just said “no?” And looked confused. He sent me away with more antidepressants despite my protests that they just made me feel completely zoned out and slightly high like I was on uppers of some sort. I believe this was the meeting at which I had “emotionally unstable personality disorder” permanently placed on my medical record, without my knowledge, and without any kind of explanation.
|To be diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder patients must display at least five of the following:
I barely attended uni, spending most of the time crying or sleeping in my room, I had no appetite and no interest in anything; I couldn’t even read anymore. It’s very common to have co existing conditions with BPD such as depression, social anxiety disorder, eating disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I was terrified to leave my room, walking past strangers on the street gave me mini panic attacks; I thought that these people were ruthlessly judging me (even though I knew deep down that they weren’t). If they were a different race I’d worry that they thought I was racist, if they had kids, that they’d think I was a paedophile, guys: ugly, girls: a loser. The list of imaginary insults and intense scrutiny over every aspect of my character went on and on. As I’d walk past I’d have to hold my breath and clench my fists to stop them thinking bad thoughts about me. My heart raced and I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. I tend to stare away from them as hard as possible, but this makes them actually look at me, because I’m walking down the street acting weird.
I felt inadequate and that I didn’t belong in lectures, who did I think I was sitting with all these people much smarter than me? Who was I kidding? I knew I was going to fail so what was the point even trying? I sank deeper and deeper into depression. I somehow managed to pass 3/4 of my January exams even though I literally only attended the first week of uni. Thank God for Blackboard. I started in January with a brand new fresh start attitude. It lasted a week. I was sick of feeling miserable in my room and I now had friends and a social life, so I threw myself into that. Every party, I’d be there. I’d be the loudest, the drunkest, the “happiest” person at the party, but inside I was completely numb and I felt like I was dying. Surrounded by people yet completely alone. Sometimes I didn’t get home until midday, which gave me just enough time to wake up at 6pm and go out and do it all over again. Which was fine because it’s not like I was attending any lectures or had any work to do… I wasn’t self-harming but I was abusing alcohol pretty heavily, my favourite coping mechanism had been taken away from me and heck I needed a substitute.
Alcohol and drugs are often used as a temporary escape from the overwhelming emotional pain of BPD, but what goes up must come down, a fact you’re willing to overlook at the time. Alcohol made the dissociative symptoms of the disorder much worse. Dissociation is where you feel like you’re having an out of body experience, it’s similar to post traumatic stress disorder. Imagine something really traumatic, like you’re involved in a car crash, and you feel as though it’s not really happening to you it’s happening to somebody else, or it’s playing out in front of you on a film. Dissociation is like that but it can last for hours or even days. It’s rather unpleasant. I remember being sat on a chair in halls and feeling like I was rising, so I had to grip the seat and tell myself repeatedly that I was sat in the chair.
My personal finance was a mess, I felt that I was already coping with so much and if I had to be responsible for one more thing I’d crash and burn and have a nervous breakdown. Being sensible with money was too much, I let it slide and ignored it as I spent to feel good and went overdrawn. Luckily my parents could help me out financially, I realise not everyone is this lucky.
This series will be continued in part 3, if any of these issues affect you or someone close to you, here are some resources on hand to help.
Nightline confidential information and listening service open 8pm-8am
02380 595 236
25236 from halls
The Samaritans 24 hours
08457 90 90 90
Mind a very good website to read more about BPD
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kayson an excellent first-hand account of BPD